The feeling of being inert was very common to me when I first began directing theater. I often found myself feeling at a loss for words, ideas, and inspirations, both before and in rehearsals. At first, I tried to answer every question, solve every problem, and leave very little room for the actors and stage managers to see that I felt like I had no idea what to do. The lucky part is that I often was at Ghostlight Theater Camp, an environment filled with incredible, strong campers who were launching into Sweeney Todd and Seussical with a passion that wouldn’t let me bowl them over with my insecurity.
Gradually, my fear gave way to comfort. I decided it was better to own the fact that I didn’t have all the answers and to perhaps begin by listening rather than by speaking. The shows I directed started having less of my fingerprint and more of a collective fingerprint. I can point to Antigone as a real example of what the practice of listening can lead to; an experience beyond one person and even beyond the cast.
The time we are in right now demands listening. It is perhaps the most simple thing we can do, and I know many of us are on fire with passions that won’t trust in simplicity. Listening is not always met with kindness. It may be the most radical act in the face of too much information, too many opinions. It neutralizes the fear of those who don’t feel heard, and that in itself can be unsettling.
This summer, we have been challenged to create and continue our community away from our home in Maine. It is daunting for sure. Many may not realize this, but our camp property is actually called Camp Eastwood. Ghostlight Theater Camp is not the property, but the spirit we bring to that place, infuse in those buildings and fields. This year, our spirit is going to live on in a new way, based heavily on technology and the internet, which we usually forgo during the summer months.
The core of this program, SuperSummer 2020, is a challenge that we have given to our teaching artists, “Ask questions.” So often, campers and students look to adults for the answers. Common questions are: "Where do I stand on the stage?" and "Why is this line important?" But it’s much more useful on both an educational and professional level if a director asks questions back. First, the actor/camper will metabolize the answer more fully. Second, and more importantly, it signals to them that we are more interested in listening to them than in speaking for or to them.
This will be a summer of listening, a summer of joy inside of challenge. We may not land on many answers, but I know that the questions we ask as a community will lead us forward into the fall of 2020 and the summer of 2021. Lesley and I are committed to this community, listening to those who are a part of it so that as we grow, we grow in all ways. We are glad that you all will be with us as we do.